UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE S’FINAL
Mauricio Pochettino has told Tottenham to shrug off the absence of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min as they prepare to face Ajax in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal this evening.
Kane headlines a lengthy injury list also including Erik Lamela and Harry Winks, while Son is suspended.
But having upset the odds to end Manchester City’s quest for a quadruple of trophies in the quarterfinals, manager Pochettino insisted Spurs’ strength as a collective can overcome Ajax’s talented group of rising stars.
“To be in a Champions League semifinal is something I dreamed about. You need to settle your dreams, to infinity and beyond,” Pochettino said at his pre-match press conference on Monday ahead of Tottenham’s first European Cup semifinal since 1962.
“The chance to play a semifinal for Tottenham has not happened often. We are in a circumstance that is not going to change and we must be ready
“It is impossible to be tired, impossible to not be excited to play. I am sure there is no doubt we will have the energy for 90 minutes.”
However, while Pochettino’s stretched squad were slipping to a sixth defeat in their last 10 Premier League games to West Ham on Saturday, Ajax have had a full week to rest as the entire Dutch league calendar for the weekend was postponed to allow them extra time to prepare.
Without Kane, who is not expected to return this season unless Spurs make it to the Champions League final on June 1, Tottenham’s goals have dried up since a thrilling 4-3 defeat in the second leg of their quarterfinal at City was enough to progress on away goals.
Christian Eriksen’s late strike to secure a 1-0 victory over Brighton on Tuesday was Spurs’ only goal in their past three games.
Son’s absence means Pochettino is robbed of another goal threat, with Lucas Moura and Fernando Llorente his only striking options.
However, the Argentine said Spurs’ teamwork can compensate for that lack of firepower.
“I think the point is that we arrive where we are now because we were a team and we are going to be a team,” he said.
“I don’t care who is going to score. Always it’s an issue to not have all the players fit, but in front of any name was the team, the collective.”
Pochettino also played down any suggestion that Kane could return in time for the second leg if the tie is still alive heading to the Johan Cruyff Arena next week.
“He’s doing well. He’s working and starting to run a bit inside. His rehab is so good but we cannot create any idea that we maybe cannot achieve.
“The most important thing is that he is in a good place and we’ll see what happens.”